A recent Irvine World News column by Adam Probolsky and a newsletter from Tustin Council member Deborah Gavello offer an interesting constrast to the boiling pot Tustin Mayor Jerry Amante finds himself in these days.
Probolsky’s column on Amante is rationalized because of the City of Tustin’s lawsuit with Tustin Unified over grading and excavation for new Tustin schools – and Probolsky points out that Irvine students attend TUSD schools (Beckman, Pioneer, Hicks Canyon to name a few); the problem here is none of those schools, nor others in unincorporated parts TUSD serves could be affected by the ordinance the City of Tustin is seeking.
So the Probolsky column is purely to run Republican Party cover for Jerry Amante and Lisa Wollery, Tustin’s PR official, who was videotaped in a deposition stating Mayor Amante “can be vindictive.”
Probolsky explains away Wollery’s testimony as “sarcasm.”
He writes: “Amante pointed out that it was the school district that filed the first lawsuit against the city and he explains that the city’s counter suit was only a defense mechanism.
Amante also explained away the comments by his city’s own city staffer about the mayor being vindictive. It turns out that Lisa Woolery (Tustin public information officer) had been in a deposition for over seven hours and her response was borne of sarcasm – a tongue-in-cheek moment – which she confirmed to me.
Having been in a deposition before, I know it can be nerve-wracking. After seven hours of being peppered with serious and not so serious questions, I can see how anyone would try to invite levity into the room.”
Here’s Woolery’s quote: “Well, he readily says that he’s Sicilian and I think that he can be vindictive from time to time when certain issues – when he feels that he’s been offended. Certain times I’ve seen him act in vindictive ways.”
I’m not buying it. And since I grew up in a very Italian-American city, let me assure you vindictiveness is not a Silician trait, but rather a trait of those who would be vindictive regardless of their ethnic origin. One must wonder if Mr. Amante asked Ms. Wollery to “take the cannoli.”
Let’s contrast Probolsky’s account with the recent newsletter to residents published by Tustin Councilwoman Deborah Gavello (some of the links aren’t working here so go to Councilwoman Gavello’s website here to click through).
“Tustin activism seems to be awakening from a long slumber. I have never seen so many residents show up at council meetings and speak. I like it! I wish more would come and participate in this messy business we call democracy.
Recall of Mayor Amante
The first large gathering was on April 6th when a large group of citizens got together and served the Mayor with a recall notice, only the second time in Tustin’s history.
Wasted Money in Suit Against Tustin Unified
The second large gathering was on April 25th in reaction to the Mayor’s agenda item for an emergency ordinance in regard to grading at a Tustin school site. Emergency ordinances are permitted for protection of health, safety, and welfare and take effect immediately. It was clear to me that the “emergency” had nothing to do with health, safety, and welfare and everything to do with an approaching court date for the litigation between the City of Tustin and the Tustin Unified School District. The council meeting was yet another unfortunate display of complete disregard for the public process replete with violations of the Brown Act and a lack of decorum by the Mayor.
It is also apparent to me, that the City of Tustin has wasted taxpayer money on a case that should have been settled long ago. The City’s jurisdiction is subordinate to the State and it has no jurisdiction over a public school district. A far more prudent response from the City would have been to place a simple phone call, as I did, to the enforcement arm of the State Water Quality Control Board. I was able to learn from an enforcement officer that any potential fines would have been far less than the $300,000 that has been spent on attorney fees to date. Update on TUSD issue from May 3rd meeting. Read my comments on the issue here.
Mayor Amante’s Personal Vendetta
This case seems to have taken on the tone of a personal vendetta as noted in a revealing quote reported in the Orange County Register from a deposition of Lisa Woolery, the city’s public information officer:
Attorney: “Would you say Jerry Amante is a vindictive person?”
Woolery: “Well, he readily says that he’s Sicilian and I think that he can be vindictive from time to time when certain issues – when he feels that he’s been offended. Certain times I’ve seen him act in vindictive ways.”
I would love to read more of the depositions in this case but the City Manager insists that I would have to sit and read them in the attorney’s office. (editor’s note: I wonder if the city manager holds Mayor Amante to the same standard?/Dan) How quickly information has dried up since the Mayor fired our former competent and short-tenured City Manager, David Biggs.
On April 29th at 5:00 pm I was informed that the lawsuit with TUSD was continued for six months. I was told that the judge looked at both parties and scolded them for acting like children. I hope he also scolded the lawyers who seem much more interested in increasing their billable hours than in dispensing lawyerly advice.
Mayor Amante’s Questionable Conduct
I continue to be deeply concerned with the control that the Mayor exerts on the city council, city staff, and our contract attorneys. It is my opinion that his overbearing appetite for control is contributing to a work environment that is oppressing the very freedoms that the Mayor purports to embrace. I have experienced a great deal of the kind of haranguing that I believe others have experienced. On March 15th, in closed session, the Mayor attempted to “cross examine” me because I had disclosed a Brown Act violation of an earlier closed session meeting. He further threatened me by suggesting that I should hire an attorney. (bolded and italicized by us/LibOC)
As an attorney himself, the Mayor should know that he has a special duty to abide by his profession’s code of conduct including not threatening litigation for personal advantage. The bar’s rules are intended to promote respect and confidence in the legal profession. It would be most welcome if the Mayor would recognize that the rule of law is grounded in respect for the dignity of the individual, including any and all residents who attend council meetings.
Going forward, I would like to see the council establish a process for the hiring of a new City Manager. Our previous recruiting process cost $27,000 and came with a two-year guarantee. Why are we not taking advantage of this guarantee? Could it be that the Mayor, with his craving for control, has unilaterally selected a replacement? Only time will tell, and until that time comes, Tustin will continue on its uncharted course.
City council meeting of April 5th- Discussion of city’s financial audit - CLICK HERE
City council meeting of April 25th- Discussion of Tustin becoming Master Developer of former base - CLICK HERE
City council meeting of April 25th- Discussion of emergency grading ordinance for TUSD - CLICK HERE
Meanwhile, the Committee formed to Recall Mayor Amante is expected to see if their revised petition passes muster with the Tustin City Clerk who rejected it the first time around on what amounts to a formatting error. The deadline is today at 5PM; if it’s rejected a second time, let’s just hope the Tustin City Clerk provides clear and specific reasons why the petition was rejected. The Tustin Recall Amante committee is using templates and following guidelines provided by the Secretary of State’s office.
Since the emergency meeting of the city council, the group has grown significantly with a number of TUSD students of voting age signing on and members of various TUSD PTO groups offering assistance.
All this talk about Italians, Silicians, and such is making me crave the awesome subs at Claro’s Italian Market in Tustin for lunch; or maybe, I’ll head to Pina’s Bistro on First Street and Yorba in Tustin for her amazing homemade pasta. No matter how small my order, I’ll have leftovers. Tell them I sent you and take the cannoli.